Japanese Occupation Radio – South East Asia

This article was originally prepared for broadcast over AWR and now forms part of the Radio Heritage Collection ©. All rights reserved to Ragusa Media Group, PO Box 14339, Wellington, New Zealand. This material is licenced on a non-exclusive basis to South Pacific DX Resource hosted on radiodx.com for a period of five years from October 1st 2001. Author: Adrian Peterson

Back in the European era of exploration and the colonial era of expansion, England and Holland divided the Malay countries into two major segments. England assumed control over the northern areas and Holland over the southern. These days these two areas are designated as Malaysia and Indonesia, with Singapore sandwiched in between and independent in its own right.

During the Pacific War, Japanese forces moved progressively through the countries in South East Asia, and they added Thailand, Burma and Malaysia into their growing Empire. What then, is the story of the international shortwave stations in these three countries during these dramatic years? Let’s look at these stations, country by country, and first:-


In prewar days, the Malay peninsula and Singapore were administered by the British as the Straits Settlements. On Singapore island, four small radio transmitters were installed, two on mediumwave and two on shortwave, under the callsigns ZHL & ZHI. These two transmitters were rated at around half a kilowatt, and they issued a colorful QSL card depicting the Singapore skyline.

In the year 1940, with stormy war clouds beginning to loom over Asia and the Pacific, the BBC in London announced plans to buy BMBC, the radio station in Singapore, and to install a 100 kW shortwave transmitter. The electronic equipment was sent out by boat from England, but most of it was lost when the ship carrying the transmitter was torpedoed and sunk.

The Singapore government began work at Jurong on a new transmitter base and they began to install two shortwave transmitters at 10 kW with the callsigns ZHP & ZHN. In 1942, the Japanese completed the construction work at Jurong and they installed two additional transmitters at 7.5 kW, one of which was transferred from the radio station on Penang island.

During the war, Singapore was on the air as Shonan Radio and it carried many broadcasts of interest to listeners in Australia and New Zealand, including prisoner-of-war news. Radio Tokio announced on March 28, 1942 that Radio Shonan was back on the air. However, because of the low power of the two shortwave transmitters, this station was not noted until mid year by the DX community in Australia, and it was November before the official government Listening Post near Melbourne heard this station.

Singapore was on the air as Shonan Radio for a period of three years and the last broadcast with the Japanese identification was noted on February 3, 1945. However, this station was not re-activated under the British for another six months. The first re-activated units were on mediumwave for the benefit of the local population, and the shortwave units were re-activated early in the New Year 1946.

The shortwave station on the island of Penang was inaugurated in 1934 with a single low power unit on shortwave. The 10 kW unit was installed just before the war and it was removed by the Japanese and taken to Singapore, leaving just the lower powered unit on shortwave in Penang. Arthur Cushen in New Zealand occasionally listened to this station on 6097 kHz for POW information, but the signal was seldom heard well.

There was also a low power shortwave unit at Kuala Lumpur, though this played no major role during the Pacific War.


When it became apparent that a major conflict was brewing in Asia and the Pacific, many of the international shortwave stations suddenly began to upgrade their equipment and to issue attractive QSL cards. This also happened in Thailand, which was known as Siam before the war.

Although the original shortwave transmitters near Bangkok were quite low powered, just 2.5 kW, a new international shortwave service in English was launched on October 20, 1938. This new programming from HSP5 & HS6PJ was beamed towards the United States, though there is no evidence that it was ever heard on the American mainland.

Work began on the construction of a 100 kW shortwave station at a new location, Nonthaburi, in 1941 and test broadcasts were noted early in the following year. Soon afterwards, the Japanese took over the operation of Radio Siam and a very strong signal was noted in Australia. However it would seem that usage of the 100 kW unit ended quite soon and the Japanese were then on the air from the two lower powered units.

On one occasion Radio Bangkok was noted calling Osaka in Japan and Berlin in Germany with a programming relay. They were heard quite frequently in both Australia & New Zealand. This station was re-activated under Thai control at the end of 1945 with two new callsigns, HSP2 & HS8PD.


The original radio station in the city of Rangoon was allocated the un-likely callsign XYZ. It was a low powered shortwave unit. In 1941, an additional shortwave transmitter at 1.2 kW was installed, and during the war, this was in use with Japanese programming beamed to Australia and New Zealand on 11875 kHz.

The Japanese occupation forces were on the air from the shortwave stations in Malaya, Thailand and Burma for a period of appoximalety three years, running from 1942 into 1945. Although they were heard often in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, yet again, there is no record of any QSLs from these operations.

The Radio Scene in South East Asia



Hawaii & Japan
1941 Dec 7 Pearl Harbor
1945 Aug 14 Japan accepted surrender terms – Japan

1941 Japanese invasion of Thailand
1945 Sep 12 Japanese forces surrendered – South East Asia

1941 Dec Japanese invaded Burma
1942 Mar 2 Japanese captured Rangoon
1945 Mar 20 Allies recaptured Mandalay
1945 May 3 Allies recaptured Rangoon
1945 Sep 12 Japanese forces surrendered – South East Asia

1942 Feb 15 Singapore surrendered to Japanese
1945 Sep 12 Japanese forces surrendered – South East Asia

Malaya – Straits Settlements
Singapore QSLs; R&H 79.11 2-40 52
BBC buy BMBC Malaya Singapore install powerful unit Christmas; LI 79.24 40
BBC station; R&H 79.11 11-40 54
New ZHP Singapore 7250 411.38 QSL card; R&H 79.11 12-40 54 & 57
New 100 kW station under construction; R&H 79.11 12-40 57
New BBC station; R&H 79.11 4-41 53
ZHP new channel; R&H 79.11 4-41 53
ZHP 500 watts; R&H 79.11 4-41 55
ZHP QSL card, Singapore skyline; R&H 79.11 4-41 55
ZHP2 1st ever QSL card; R&H 79.11 5-41 52
ZHP1 poor signal; R&H 79.11 8-41 52
ZHP4 11730 new; R&H 79.11 11-41 55
ZHN new channel; R&H 12-41 52
ZHN9 7200 41.67 heard; R&H 79.11 1-42
ZHN9 QSL; R&H 79.11 2-42 53
ZHN 3 SW QSLs; R&H 79.11 2-42 54
Radio Tokio announces Shonan Radio back on air 28-3-42; ATCTWIME 30
On air now as Shonan Radio 12000 kHz; R&H 79.12 9-42 48
Singapore 1st heard in Melbourne November 1942; Meo 35
Radio Shonan; ARW 77.8 2-43 23
Shonan Radio last heard Feb 3, 1945; RN 84.267 4-45
Singapore MW returns to the air 940 kHz; LI 79.24 22-9-45
Singapore now 2 MW 940 = 1000 & 1333; LI 79.24 13-10-45
Radio Singapore MW 1333 returns to air; LI 79.24 13-10-45
BMA Singapore 4 channels; R&H 79.13 11-45 36
New outlets from Singapore heard; R&H 77.10 2-46 36
BFEB 19 m band; R&H 77.10 10-46 71
Singapore 4 SW channels during war; ATCRLG 7
New Radio Malaysia; LI 79.24 2-11-46
Transmitter usage; TDP 98 54
Singapore Malaya 4 @ 7.5 kW in 1947; WRHB 1947 57
Azad Moseem Radio 9590; ATCRLG 7

ZHJ began 1934 49.3 m; Folder
ZHJ Penang; LI 79.23 3-10-36 41
ZHJ Penang QSL 1 kW 27-6-39; CPRV 30
ZHJ Penang changes channel; R&H 77.10 7-39 57
Penang; R&H 79.11 2-40 52
Penang back on air 30-5-42; ATCTWIME 30
Penang under Japanese; ARW 77.8 7-42
Penang; R&H 1942 43
Penang 10 kW SW transferred to Jurong Singapore; PC 5-87 14
Penang Radio 6097 during war; ATCRLG 7
QSL letter; R&H 77.10 10-46 72

Kuala Limpur
Kuala Lumpur 6090 now heard again; R&H 77.10 3-46 44

Changes in channels & calls; R&H 79.11 2-40 55
QSL & info; R&H 79.11 3-40 58
New Overseas Service began 20-10-38 HSP5; LI 79.24 16-11-40 19
HSP5 & HS6PJ both 2.5 kW; R&H 77.10 3-41 55
Nice QSL card; R&H 77.10 3-41 55
New transmitter site construction at Nonthaburi 100 kW; R&H 79.11 6-41 52
Test broadcasts on 9510; R&H 79.11 1-42 52
Anti-British on 7190; R&H 79.12 9-42 47
Strong new signal from Thailand; ARW 77.7 10-42 20
HSP2 19100 calling Osaka & Berlin, also EE broadcasts; R&H 79.12 2-43 43
HSP5 back on air; R&H 79.13 1-46 36
HS8PD QSL card; R&H 77.10 12-46 69
HS8PD 2.5 kW, WRHB 1947 58

XZZ 6056 stronger than previous XYZ; ARW 77.8 1-3-40 29
New SW station; R&H 79.11 2-41 52
XYZ 6007 1.2 kW QSL card; R&H 79.12 2-4155
XYZ on air under Japanese control; R&H 9-42 50
SEAC 11860 with relay of Japanese surrender; R&H 77.10 10-45 36
SEAC Rangoon 6045; R&H 79.13 11-45 36
Rangoon 11745 during war; ATCRLG 7
Rangoon one SW transmitter at 7.5 kW in 1947; WRHB 1848 53

VQF 6985 42.95 Kuching on air 1 hr Saturday; R&H 79.11 4-41 52

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  1. Thank you for this very informative site.

    I looked up “Radio Shonan”, because a letter sent to my Grandmother, who’s husband had already died as a POW on the Thai-Burma Railway; was reported at 9.20 (NSW Time – not sure if it is AM or PM). Letters from all over Australia was sent to her reporting this message which was broadcast by a female on Radio Shonan:

    “From: VX34164 GNR A.J. Mumford
    To: Mrs G. Moffat, 5 Carroll Street, Reservoir
    I am well and unhurt. Hope you are alright at home. Love to all at Reservoir.
    Keep your chin up. Arthur”

    The sad point is that Gunner Arthur John Mumford died from “illness” on 14 July 1943 at Hell Fire Pass (Kaanyu 3), Thailand. This broadcast was made 5 months after his death. A cruel ploy by the Japanese.